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The Ideal Penis Size, According To Women

The Ideal Penis Size, According To Women: © Kate Mitchell / Corbis

© Kate Mitchell / Corbis

A lot of guys are unhappy with the size of their manhood. Consider this: In an online survey of nearly 26,000 straight men, 45 percent reported being dissatisfied with their penises. Unsurprisingly, almost all of these guys wished they were bigger. It is very rare for men to worry that they might be too large—in fact, just two-tenths of one percent of men from this survey wished that their longfellows were less, um, long.

Where does this small penis anxiety come from? Research suggests that much of it stems from guys thinking that women prefer bigger penises than they really do. In other words, small penis anxiety is primarily a perception problem.

So what do women really think is ideal when it comes to penis size? The conclusions of a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE are likely to comfort many men. It turns out that women’s preferred penis size is actually pretty close to average.

In this study, researchers surveyed 75 women from California about their penis size preferences. Although this sample was obviously small, it was diverse in terms of age (which ranged from 18-65) and race (37 percent White, 32 percent Asian, 21 percent Hispanic and 13 percent Black). All women reported being sexually attracted to men and, on average, they reported having touched seven penises before.

Each woman was presented with a series of 33 life-size penis models that varied in size from 4 to 8.5 inches in length and 2.5 to 7 inches in girth (i.e., circumference). Each model consisted of a plastic blue cylinder with a dome that mimicked the appearance of a penis. Examples are shown in the image below.

001 penis-size-graph

The researchers didn’t include testicles or make the penises look more realistic than this because they wanted women to focus only on size and not get distracted by other features (e.g., pubic hair, veins, curves) that might affect how attractive they found each model.

Women were asked to select the penis model they would prefer on a partner if they were having a one-night stand, as well as the penis model they would prefer on a partner if they were in a long-term romantic relationship.

It turns out that the preferred penis size was very similar for both types of relationships. However, women preferred slightly larger penises for one-night stands than they did for long-term relationships.

Specifically, for a one-night stand, the average size desired was 6.4 inches in length and 5 inches in girth. For a long-term partner, the average size desired was 6.3 inches in length and 4.8 inches in girth.

How does that match up with the average male penis? According to a recent U.S. study in which more than 1,600 men measured their own penises, the average length (5.6 inches) was a little smaller than women’s preferred length, while the average girth (4.8 inches) was right on the money.

Other studies have put the average length closer to six inches, though, which means that the gap between the average man’s length and women’s preferred length may be even smaller. However, the truth of the matter is that we don’t know with certainty what the average penis length really is because every study on this topic has shortcomings—for one thing, not all guys want to be measured and, for another, the results vary depending upon who’s doing the measuring. Based upon the available evidence, though, we have good reason to believe that the average length is likely somewhere in the 5.5 to 6 inch range

As with all research, there are some important limitations of this work, not the least of which is that only a small number of women were surveyed. In addition, how a woman feels about a plastic blue cylinder might not be a perfect reflection of how she feels about an actual penis.

Moreover, these women weren’t asked how important size was to them or whether penis size affects their ability to experience sexual pleasure. We know from other research that size in and of itself isn’t really the key to orgasm for most women. This means that even if there is a minor discrepancy between a woman’s ideal size and her partner’s actual size, it’s not necessarily a sign that there are sexual problems ahead.

Limitations aside, the results of this research are important because they suggest that a lot of the anxiety guys have about not being “big enough” is misplaced. In reality, guys are usually far more worried about the size of their penises than their partners are.


Justin Lehmiller, PhD is a sex educator and researcher at Ball State University and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @JustinLehmiller.


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